Anyone recovering from a heart attack knows it's crucial to keep an eye on blood pressure. But even if most readings are in the normal range, an occasional spike can signal heightened risk of stroke.

A study unveiled at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting last month found that recovering heart attack patients whose blood pressure displayed sporadic high results had six times the risk of suffering a stroke than those whose blood pressure remained constant. The study's authors said the results also might hold true even for those who never suffered a heart attack.

The take-away: Having blood pressure checked once or twice a year during a doctor's visit might not be enough to spot a troubling trend. Buy a home monitor or use the units at supermarkets or drugstores. And don't disregard an infrequent high reading as a "blip."

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